The Zambia National Students Union (ZANASU) and its affiliate Unions is calling on Parliament to amend the Public Order Act Bill which stands in defense of the rights of students and citizens to peacefully assemble while upholding the need for public order.
The students’ leaders through its umbrella body submitted that the presentation of the Bill provides an opportunity for the country to repeal the existing draconian public order law and replace it with a law that responds to modern-day democracy.
The student leaders representing various institutions have called on Members of Parliament across the political divide to make amendments to the current Bill rather than attempt to lose this opportunity.
The student leaders submitted that it was saddening to see students abused and detained for exercising their constitutional rights of assembly, expression and association.
In a statement issued on behalf of ZANASU and its affiliate Unions, ZANASU President Steven Kanyakula highlighted that Parliament should make specific amendments to the Bill, to remove the wider discretion law enforcement officers enjoy to unilaterally refuse to allow and permit people from holding public meetings.
“Sometimes the Zambia Police deny permits on the basis lack of sufficient manpower to handle public gatherings and demonstrations,” he said
Mr Kanyakula added that as an umbrella student Union they want to see to it that the new Public Order law makes both convenors of meetings and authorized officers accountable rather than confer immunity on police.
He said that ZANASU is trusting on Parliament to ensure the new Bill recognises the rights of students to have a peaceful demonstration and guaranteed protection of academic freedoms.
Mr Kanyakula noted that thoughts shall be offered to Parliament once it’s open for submissions and a continued engagement to individual MPs to make desirable changes that would work in the interest of both students and the general citizenry.
“As a united student movement, we are determined to help our country come up with a new public order law than being armchair critics,” he said